Chiang Mai – Xam Nua Return

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Jan 16, 2011.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    RE-MAPPING NORTHERN LAOS TOWNS.
    Chiang Mai – Xam Nua & Return
    13 December 2010 – 10 Jan 2011.
    28 nights 29 days (quite a bit longer than I thought; & I think Happy-Go-Lucky was happy to see me return.)
    Distance 4,000 kms (not a lot, just pottering along taking photos & GPS-ing.)

    THE WAY
    Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai. 1 night.
    Chiang Rai – Houei Xai. 3 nights.
    Houei Xai – Luang Nam Tha. 2 nights.
    Luang Nam Tha – Muang Sing. 1 night.
    Muang Sing – Oudom Xai. 2 nights.
    Oudom Xai – Pak Beng. 1 night.
    Pak Beng – Oudom Xai – Luang Prabang. 5 nights.
    Luang Prabang – Nong Khiew. 1 night.
    Nong Khiew – Vieng Thong. 1 night.
    Vieng Thong- Xam Nua. 2 nights.
    Xam Nua – Phonsavan. 2 nights.
    Phonsavan – Vang Vieng. 2 nights.
    Vang Vieng – Vientiane. 4 nights.
    Vientiane – Loei. 1 night.
    Loei - Chiang Mai.

    DAY 1: Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai.
    A real late start getting away from the super at 4PM, so it was a bit of a rush up to CEI.
    I neglected to book a hotel room & my first 2 choices the Nimseeseng & The Sabai Inn were both full.
    The Sport Inn, had rooms & is good value for money @ 350 baht a night,

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    but I don’t ike the parking set up there that much, which is why it is # 3 (for me.)

    DAY 2: Chiang Rai – Houei Xai.
    Depart 10.40AM
    Arrive Chiang Khong 12.30PM, just in time for lunch.
    Lunch was a chicken baguette + a coffee at the Tammila.
    At 1PM I was downtown at the Immigration office for the TM2
    15 minutes later I was the port.
    Another 15 minutes later I was on the car ferry & off across the Mekong.

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    100% smooth.
    At 2PM I was in the Houei Xai Customs office having my bike temporarily imported.

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    Counter # 5 is where you now do the motorcycle temporary import

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    In another 40 minutes I was heading down town. Customs bike import + insurance all completed!

    2.40PM was hotel check in at the OudomPhone2.
    3.11 PM & I had cleared immigration, was stamped in & fully legal.
    100% smooth. Was this my best border Chiang Khong – Houei Xai crossing ever? I reckon so.

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    lots more to come.
     
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Houei Xai it was then for 3 nights.

    There was a Buddhist ceremony in honour of a recently departed senior citizen, right in the centre of town on the main street.

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    There's a new bakery in town owned by Ms Bakery

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    Years ago on my first Laos ride we ate at a small wood & bamboo shack beside the road. The owners have progressed a bit & now have the Riverside Houei Xai hotel. The best accommodation in town.

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    And the best? restaurant.
    The terrace beside the Mekong.

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    Sunset over The Mekong.

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    Wat Jom Kao Manilat is up on the hill overlooking Houei Xai & Chiang Khong.

    You can walk up the steps

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    or ride up the back way, if you have a bike.

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    The main viharn is under going renovation

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    on the front side

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    The Chiang Khong - Houei Xai border crossing is very busy with scores of vehicles being ferried across every day. Often 80-100 per cars / trucks a day according to Customs, & the car ferries run till late most days.

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    The ferry operators are making good money, & so they should before the new bridge is built & they lose their source of income.
     
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    HOUEI XAI - THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE

    DON XAO
    The Lao island in the Mekong

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    I've been to Don Sao many times by boat from the Golden Triangle on the Thai side, delivering maps with Happy-Go-Lucky & stocking up on Beer Laos.
    Actually getting my bike onto the island has always been one of my "dreams."
    And it was no big deal. The Chinese are taking over & there is a dry season causeway out to the island (from the Laos side of course.)

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    The river road on the Laos side is just about all asphalt to the GT except for a few kms of stony dirt / gravel.

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    Then once you get to the GT you are in the Chinese Casino & Entertainment city.

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    It is almost like being in another world!

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    but it is a work in progress.
    Housing being built for the masses who will eventually live & settle there.

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    The new immigration checkpoint

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    ready a bit before it's time

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    and not for farang to use!

    The Golden Triangle view from the Laos side

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    Need a taxi to get around

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    I saw stretch limos on the road between Houei Xai & The Golden Triangle. No doubt running punters up & down from HX.

    The AT was in a class of it's own in the car park & attracted a few admirers!

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    Ho. Ho.

    Eventually you wont need to use the limo to get to the GT from HX, but fly straight in. The new airstrip.

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    Progress & it is full speed ahead in N Laos with the Chinese "taking over."
    Eventually even the tourist shops on Don Sao island will have to go & everybody move out. Go see it now while you can & it is still there.

    See
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/LL23Ae01.html
    and
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/MA08Ae01.html
    for info on the almighty Chinese investments.
     
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    HOUEI XAI - LUANG NAM THA

    179 kms & a road that has bothered a few riders the last couple of years.

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    Originally built by 3 contractors & one of them cheated on his section of the road towards the Houei Xai end. 60 kms were dug up & redone.

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    but most of it is ok now.

    There are still a few annoying asphalt / gravel bits

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    The Don Chai city view is always a delight

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    The good stuff through Don Chai.

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    The road works / resurfacing is down to a mere 20 kms

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    and is not difficult at all

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    a sport bike rider can do it & indeed the guys from Malaysia did it - two of them on Hayabusas & no one went down!

    More of the good stuff

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    Oops

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    Vieng Phoukha city

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    under going a boom from wise eco-tourism & trekking to some fantastic Akha villages in the mountains.

    A Vieng Phoukha lunch pitstop

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    Yep on the road to Luang Prabang, a mere 333 kms away.

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  6. David Learmonth

    David Learmonth Ol'Timer

    Interesting report & photos. I suppose its called "progress" but such a shame that Laos appears to be being taken over by the Chinese. Some investment is one thing but this really seems like overkill!
     
  7. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Happy to follow your latest Laos trip David. I have similar pictures in my box (like the "oops" bus), from my November trip ... but shame on me, I am only working on South Laos (September) trip now :( .Anyway, good memories and additional informations when looking at your threads. I hope that mine will not go in the "vintage" category, when I finally post them.

    Your AT always brings a nice touch of color ... maybe I should have listen to your advise to keep the bike colored :)

    Attached files [​IMG]
     
  8. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    A fun place to be put on the map. Thank you David for scouting it. Now I also understand why I once crossed an incredible black Mercedes on a stony North Laos road :).
     
  9. nolanyusof

    nolanyusof Active Member

    Nice to read your trip report again David. I'm still trying to complete my report on the last trip to Laos last December. huhuh... Hopefully can upload it .... :)
     
  10. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    LUANG NAM THA: 17 - 18 December 2010.

    Was cold!

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    hanging out with the local lads, street side at night. A camp fire, a guitar & some cheap whisky.

    Once a grubby town that I never really liked that much, except for eating & drinking at the Manychan restaurant in the main street.

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    Mediocre service, but good food & a brill atmosphere kerbside watching the world of LNT going by.
    Nowadays I think LNT is quite ok. The town is beginning to have character & charm.

    The light around LNT always seems clear & is great for photography.

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    The morning wet market in Luang Nam Tha is a beauty & highly recommended.

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    It was cold in the morning too

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    Khao Kriap Fai was the popular crispy breakfast item of the day

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    The finished product ready for munching on

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    A sticky rice breakfast for others

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    Dragon fruit

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    Spotted in the LNT market motorbike park

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    And the el cheapo version

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    The price of fuel for your bike

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    9370 kip a litre = 36 baht a litre.
     
  11. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Wonderful market pictures David. November was already cold in LNT and my first shopping was for a sweater. I liked Wifi and street view in Manychan, food was OK and I hangout there quite a lot (finally I took a room there). Not really bad service but you can feel that they have quite a good business ... no need real Lao hospitality anymore :(
     
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Back to the Golden Triangle & Houei Xai for a few panorama shots

    Don Sao island & the embankment the Chinese are building.

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    Same same at the Golden Triangle on the Laos side

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    The Kapok Hotel at the GT & Chinese entertainment city

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    Houei Xai & downstream at the new Korean golf course - resort site

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  13. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    19 December 2010.
    Day 6 & still in Luang Nam Tha the last day, before heading off to Muang Sing & I was nearly wiped out pottering along at 40kph GPS-ing.
    As close as I've come in many many years, brushing the side of a speeding vehicle racing like a maniac through the Ban Khone market by the airport. It was so close I actually blinked / momentarily closed my eyes as I thought I was going to collect the big 4WD. Not impressed at all.

    It was the last vehicle in a motor caravan from Malaysia racing through a busy market place forcing every vehicle out the way / off the road.
    It might as well have been a race stage of the Paris Dakar rally they were driving so insanely full speed ahead, just a few kms out of Luang Nam Tha.

    The last vehicle was a bit behind momentarily caught behind a motorbike going the same way & not wanting to move off his own road.
    The idiot in the 4WD then swerved dramatically & barged out attempting to force me off the road.

    We brushed sides & how we did not collide I don't know.

    I carried on, shaken, cruised around the LNT bypass road & stopped at the Muang Sing turn off.
    It was lunch time.
    Now I wonder if the rally pricks are in LNT having lunch I thought? I back tracked into LNT & there they were

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    I politely asked for the Malaysian group leader
    His name: Yap Yong Leong
    from The Tropical Adventure Team Malaysia

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    They were scoffing down lunch in a frenzy in the Manychan.

    Incredibly once I complained he replied "oh yeah that was the last vehicle."
    The dipsticks already knew they had almost taken out someone.
    A big cheesy grin & "sorry, sorry,"

    Absolutely bloody lunatics, showing no respect for the locals, racing through a busy market place in a convoy 2-3 times the speed limit forcing everyone off the road & out of their way. And just 5 kms from their lunch stop!

    Why not slowdown & back off on the outskirts of town I thought, be sensible.

    I was totally sickened & shaken up.

    You have to wonder how many accidents do they cause on their maniacal rally drives, speeding from one destination to the next. In the name of tourism? For whom? Certainly not the locals they terrorize & alienate as the race though the quiet communities.

    One would not blame the locals, if in the future, they threw stones at their vehicles or put down nails on the road. I for one would be sympathetic & understand why.

    In a 17 day non-stop trip from Malaysia - Vietnam & return
    http://tat4x4.blogspot.com/search/label/17%20Days%2016%20Nights%20Malaysia-Thai-Loas-Vietnam%2018%2F12%2F09%20-%203%2F1%2F2010%20%E5%A4%A7%E9%A9%AC%EF%BC%8D%E6%B3%B0%E5%9B%BD%EF%BC%8D%E5%AF%AE%E5%9B%BD%EF%BC%8D%E8%B6%8A%E5%8D%97
    how many incidents & near misses do they cause?

    TAT Tropical Adventure

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    you guys are most irresponsible & were a sickening disgrace the way you raced into Luang Nam Tha.The worst type of tourists acting like that.
    It's time to wake up to yourselves before you start maiming & killing people.
     
  14. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    :) well posted, they will probably not read the thread, but it is worth to rise awareness that reckless driving can even happen in Laos. More and more foreign registered cars and lorries are racing there.
     
  15. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Day 7. Muang Sing. 19 December 2010.

    I got away from LNT at 1.36PM & arrived in Muang Sing at 3.13PM a distance of 58.3 kms with an average speed of 36KPH just cruising along, enjoying the scenery & taking photos = the way to go.
    5kms before town is the Phou Tat / Chiang Teung guesthouse that has gorgeous panoramic views over the Muang Sing valley.

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    Muang Sing seems to be going backwards re western tourism & is not as popular as it was several years ago.
    The town however is undergoing a bit of a mini boom from the Chinese influx.

    There was some interesting construction going on downtown with the cement bucket brigade.

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    The main market area is now on the edge of town & most of the old dirt goat track streets are in good condition, with quite a few asphalt. All nice progress for the locals.

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    Cruising the side streets of Muang Sing I found this happy family BBQ-ing some fish dinner.

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    Once I had shown the kids the image on the camera, they immediately became stars, posing for more photos.

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    Chedi time in Muang Sing

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    Full moon rise over Muang Sing

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    One of the local guides accosted me having an early dinner & asked if I wanted to go out to a big Akha village for new year they were celebrating. Yes I was damn interested & would like to go, but at 7Pm departure I realised he only wanted to ride on the back of the AT, "about 7 kms", up & down some dirt track to a village way up in the mountains. I'd probably have to drink a considerable amount of moonshine once there celebrating, then ride back two-up in the dark. Reluctantly I decided to pass & live to ride a lot longer.

    But if you're ever in Muang Sing for full moon in December ask around if it is Akha New Year.

    Early to bed it was & up early for the Muang Sing morning market.

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    Cold & foggy it was!

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    The meat section

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    Herbs & veges & ....?

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    This lady impressed me kick starting her bike with a load on.

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    someone I would not like to mess with.

    Breakfast & baguette time

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    And a BIG mug of Lao coffee, Muang Sing market style.

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    & even I struggled to finish this one cuppa.

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    in the pic above is the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. The one with the pink-mauve umbrella covering her head. I was innocently snapping away & as she went past & turned the corner, she lifted her parasol & smiled. Unbelievable exquisite beauty. An angelic goddess from heaven smiling at me - I momentarily lost my breath. My jaw dropped, gobsmacked. I kid you not.
    I sent off an SMS to my mate John at Rim Taan ghouse in Thoed Thai, married to a Lue lady from Luang Nam Tha, proclaiming the great beauty I had seen.
    Indeed it was good to be alive & not an emblem on the front of a Malaysian 4WD.

    All over Laos the LNTA tourism office has brilliant informative posters & maps with info & details of the local attractions.

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    Well done LNTA.
     
  16. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    These are again warm and colorful pictures from the market David. I am very happy to see them, as they remind me of my November (less cold) trip :). Big incentive to hit the road again!
     
  17. HTWoodson

    HTWoodson Ol'Timer

    Great pics David. I love the morning markets.
     
  18. nolanyusof

    nolanyusof Active Member

    Great picture & panorama David... What a beautiful place to visit..
     
  19. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    MUANG SING - OUDOM XAI
    DAYS 8 & 9: 20-21 December 2010.

    Muang Sing - Oudom Xai: 171 kms.
    Ex MS: 10.14AM
    Arrival OX:4.09PM
    Average speed 39KPH.

    The road Muang Sing - Luang Nam Tha.

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    beautiful, narrow winding, hilly bumpy asphalt.
    A gem of a rural ride.

    A Manychan lunch

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    and I must confess to eating only farang food at the Manychan. (Slash where are you? Laos still awaits you!)

    The Na Teuy / Boten (China border) / Oudom Xai road junction.

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    and how it keeps changing over the years.
    Above is the view west towards Luang Nam Tha.

    The view south towards Oudom Xai, & the crappy road.

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    The view North back towards the road junction & Boten / the China border.

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    R13 N heading south from Na Teuy to Oudom Xai.
    A road that lots of riders don't enjoy because of the ongoing road works for the last couple of years.
    But most of it is good now & the asphalt only runs out 20-25 kms north of Oudom Xai.

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    The road however is to narrow for the bigger buses & trucks & you do need to watch yourself.

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    on the tighter bends oncoming buses & trucks cannot pass each other properly & someone has to back up & let the other vehicle through. Unbelievable, but a reflection on how fast times are changing in Laos.

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    Something that impresses me with these new Laos' roads: the drains, big & solid. They wont wash away easily like many of the roads in Thailand.

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    and the trick appears to be build a solid drain either side of the road first, then fill in the road between the drains. Not the road first, then tack on a mickey mouse drain beside the road after wards. Check it out sometime.

    How great the road is

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    Arrival time in UX was 4PM plus. Checked into my preferred UX hotel the Oudam Kham

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    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/threads/33419-Oudom-Xai-Accommodation?p=227917#post227917

    Happy hour was roadside outside the ex Keomoungkol.

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    a beer & some simple, but incredibly fresh delicious food.

    And the highlight was my meeting up with my Lao niece again:

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    10 yrs old + now speaks Lao + English + Chinese. What a star.

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    This amazing little gal, runs Mum's shop when Mum is not around: cleans, cooks, washes, takes orders & checks the bill.She's the highlight of UX for me!

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    First encountered in 2008 here
    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/threads/28617-The-Luang-Prabang-Loop?p=264464#post264464
     
  20. johngooding

    johngooding Ol'Timer

    Thanks David for a very informative report with lovely clear pictures. Certainly great light at the moment, I guess that may change over the next few weeks as the burning really kicks off.
    Why is it that these guys think they can turn on a big flashing light and headlights and abuse everybody on the road. The bigger the vehicle, the longer the convoy, the more they think they are the most important thing on the road. Unfortunately not a lot we can do apart from keep our eyes open. Glad you got off shaken but not injured.
    Cheers, John
     
  21. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Oudom Xai City Views

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    Phu That Stupa

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    Sunset

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    Full moon rise

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  22. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    OUDOM XAI

    Another of the highlights of Oudom Xai was finding the Siso Bakery
    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/threads/34092-Oudom-Xai-Restaurants?p=264367#post264367

    Siso Bakery

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    Run by Lae & her Mum Mrs Some Xay.
    Wonderful warm friendly people - as sweet as.
    Delicious food - breads / cookies / baguettes / coffee.

    Location
    The south end of town
    between the PTT petrol station & the airport turn off.
    East (left) side heading south.
    GPS Waypoint: N20 41.178 E101 59.246

    I met the guys from Malaysia
    1 Versys
    2 Hayabusas
    1 Pegaso
    here & we had a great time chatting & eating.

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    A GT Rider breakfast at the Siso Bakery in Oudom Xai.

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    Highly recommended as the breakfast & lunch spot in Oudom Xai.

    Good restaurants & food have always been problematic in UX IMHO, & the only place with what I thought was good food was the Keomoungkol, which is now closed. They lost the lease.

    So the Siso Bakery is a really welcome eatery in UX. Check it out.[​IMG]
     
  23. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    OUDOM XAI - PAK BENG 22 December 2010.

    143 kms + average speed 43 kph.

    One of, if not, my favourite roads in Laos.
    Why - because of the beauty of the villages & people - mainly Tai Lue - en route.
    A sweet gentle rolling winding undulating asphalt road.
    The light is always fantastic, the kids super friendly and then you end up at the Mekong & Pak Beng. Pak Beng used to be a bit of a rathole, but it's getting cleaner & nicer, & more friendly nestled on the steep hills overlooking the 'Khong.

    At breakfast the weather did not look too appealing

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    The way R2W

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    "Walking the log."

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    Take 2 Walking The Log.

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    Wat Ban Yor?

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    Ban Yor is a village that the Oudom Xai tourist office is pushing as a cultural village for pottery & weaving. But I could not see any.
    However Ban Sam Kang a few kms up the road was a beauty for weaving & spinning cotton.

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    I was intrigued by the ladies use of their feet in the cotton spinning process

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    Back on the road

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    Muang Houn, the main street & the main town between Oudom Xai & Pak Beng.

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    A superb road, ride & scenery. R2W Oudom Xai - Pak Beng.
     
  24. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    PAK BENG

    Recommended place of stay.
    The Santisouk

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    GPS Waypoint: N19 53.540 E101 07.674
    or look on the Pak Beng city map on the GT Rider Laos guide map.

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    Under cover parking, street side.

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    Happy owner Mum & kids

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    After GPS-ing Pak Beng city - I have 31 waypoint changes - it was time for a happy hour sunset beer.

    I picked the Tha Heua last restaurant for the best sundown view.

    Late afternoon in Pak Beng before the backpacker boats come in.

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    The restaurant was deserted & the waitress asked how many glasses I wanted for the beer.

    Well just one for me, but two if you'd like to join me........how could I not offer an invitation......

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    Miss Jang & a vertiable young goddess

    Sitting in the restaurant gentle imbibing & pondering the finer things in life I observed a huge bonfire downstream on the banks of the Mekong.

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    In the pic above, you can just see the last of the smoke.

    Wow. That's a big beach BBQ I commented to Jang.
    Yes it's a cremation. Ooops.
    One of Pak Beng's senior citizens died recently, & as is the custom in Pak Beng they are cremated on the banks of the Mekong.

    Soon a couple of boats from downstream berthed & half the town disembarked.

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    Half of these then sauntered into my romantic restaurant & proceeded to join us at the table. The shop owner, Jang's Mum & Aunty included. Nothing like top of the range chaperones I thought.

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    As the sun went down

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    the kids played joyfully in their golden paradise on the banks of the Mekong

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    What a carefree life they have there I thought, & how lucky I was to witness it & perhaps just be a small part of it.
    Once the Mekong dam at Pak Beng is built it will be gone forever. Where will the villagers conduct their cremations then? They must have been doing that for generations & soon it wil be gone. Time moves on & waits for no one.
     
  25. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    PAK BENG Cont'd

    Whilst watching the sun go down, the young kids gathered outside the restaurant waiting for tourists to arrive so they could carry their bags up the hill to their accommodation.
    They were an extremely likeable & jovial gang, so lung farang bought them all 2 BBQ sticks for their good disposition.

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    it went down well & was highly appreciated.

    With the big arrival of a good part of the village "gate crashing" my romantic rendezvous, I went with the flow & continued with a few more ales, but I could not keep up with the ladies by the end of the night who were outdoing all the men in the drinking stakes. Lao women never cease to amaze me with their beer capacity.

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    The beer never ran out, but the opener was displaced, not that it was a problem for more than 10 seconds...

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    use your teeth!
     
  26. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Great stuff ... makes me nostalgic to quickly go back. The only bit of whole route 13 that I have not driven is from LNT to Oudom Xai (but I did the last 25, non asphalted, kilometers twice :) ). I am happy to know that it is now nearly "presentable". I used the same hotel :) ... was your recommendation. I also agree with Manychan Farang treat, the rest of the year we go local in Thailand :)
     

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